I never thought I’d say this, but I’ve fallen head over heels for tahini.
Although I’m a lover of nut butters and sesame seeds (which make up tahini), tahini’s uniquely bold and assertive flavor made it difficult for me to love it. I tried, believe me. For months, I added a little bit here, a little bit there. But no matter how scant of a teaspoon I used, I just couldn’t get used to that robust bite, that strange aftertaste.
Being the health food nut that I am, it was difficult for me not to enjoy tahini. I really, really wanted to love it, because the nutritional profile of sesame seeds is outstanding. I mean, just take a look at this:
- “Sesame seeds contain two unique substances: sesamin and sesamolin. Both of these substances belong to a group of special beneficial fibers called lignans, and have been shown to have a cholesterol-lowering effect in humans, and to prevent high blood pressure and increase vitamin E supplies in animals.” (Source)
- Sesame seeds are also a wonderful source of calcium, magnesium, copper, and zinc—all important minerals used abundantly in hundreds of bodily functions.
- Healing Food Reference lists sesame seeds as beneficial food for those with intestinal parasites, skin conditions and acne, and high cholesterol while supporting the circulatory and immune systems as well.
All that, and I still didn’t like tahini.
But after a few months of plugging along, trying it in a new recipe every now and then, I noticed my palate begin to change. The strong flavor? Not so strong anymore. That aftertaste? Hardly noticeable.
And now, after using tahini more and more often throughout the spring and summer, I simply can’t get enough. Somewhere along the way, my taste buds started responding differently to each layer of flavor in tahini and gradually they learned to love it. Why this happened, I don’t really know. But it’s proof that if you try something consistently over and over again, you just may warm up to it.
I’ve been enjoying tahini most often in salad dressings, like the one in this cabbage slaw. I find that pairing it with something sweet like maple syrup or apples creates an irresistible combo that grabs hold of my appetite and keeps me wanting more.
Of course, a little tahini in hummus is a must, too. But it also can add a mysterious and mouthwatering depth to smoothies. (Just know that a little goes a long way.)
This experiment in training my taste buds to enjoy something new has me wondering what else I might learn to love. Sardines? Seaweed? Hot peppers?
Here I come.
Cabbage & Apple Slaw with Tahini Dressing
For the slaw:
4 heaping cups thinly sliced green cabbage
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
1 medium Gala apple, cored and cut into matchsticks
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
For the dressing:
3 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed butter)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dark maple syrup
1 tablespoon water
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the slaw. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients for the dressing. Pour the dressing over the slaw and toss to coat. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes before serving, or up to 2 hours.